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Guide Spotlight: Zack Cleary

Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Zack first started climbing during his time at Colgate University and devoted much of his time to the Outdoor Education program. When he wasn’t struggling on physics problem sets, he was leading other students on trips throughout the country while also establishing a firm devotion to the states in the upper right corner. Learn a bit more about Zack below and make sure to hire him as a guide for your next adventure: hire Zack!

Where are you from, and how long have you worked at Petra Cliffs?

I grew up in upstate New York but now spend my summers in Bar Harbor, Maine and winters in Burlington. I’ve also spent a fair bit of time in the desert southwest. This winter season is my first season at Petra Cliffs and I love the community found here.

What is your role at the gym / mountaineering School?

I am a guide this winter at the mountaineering school. If you frequent the Smugglers Notch or the Adirondacks, you’ll likely run into me showing people what I love to do or getting after it myself!

Do you have a favorite part season?

Early fall is the time of travel and climbing for me. Favorable weather for rock climbing in a majority of the country has me packing the car and getting in touch with friends around the country. If I can time it right, I try to get my fill out the deciduous trees putting on their northeast show and then head to the red stone of the southwest.

How about a favorite Vermont climbing location?

Smuggler’s Notch is a gem of the northeast, especially in the winter. Climbing in the notch can be an unexpected alpine adventure. Its awe inspiring up in there and there’s few other places in Vermont where you can get so nestled into the hills. I really started to explore the place last year during my first winter in Vermont and continue to feel adventurous every time I go in there.   

Do you have a preferred climbing discipline (boulder/ropes/ice/rock)?

Give me a long trad route somewhere in the 5.8-5.10 range and I’ll be loving life. Though that’s my preferred terrain, no matter the season or discipline, I’m finding anyway to get in the hills.

Where is your favorite (climb?) that you have climbed? It can be in Vermont or elsewhere!

My recurring, over-indulged drama is King Cat at the Cat Wall in Indian Creek, UT. King Cat is a crack-in-corner climb with three distinct cruxes. The icing on the cake is a body length, big-hands roof with the heart breaker crux pulling over the roof to clip the chains. I’ll fire that thing one day!

What is a fun fact about you?
I have an academic paper published! Before my life became saturated with bringing folks outside, I did a fair amount of thinking about volcanoes.

Why do you enjoy guiding and educating others in outdoor recreated sports?

There’s an incredible experience to be had when you can show someone what they’re capable of. I find a lot of joy in seeing folks figuring out what they can accomplish, both mentally and physically. I also think there’s a cathartic constitution to being out in nature.

What's one thing you'd like to see at the gym as we upgrade to Petra 2.0?

If there’s an espresso machine in the new gym, I’ll never leave.